Having seen my good friend Jeff's latest TV-based discussion, Jeff Watches Torchwood, I thought, "Since Jeff is posting about a current program that he's watching for the first time, I ought to post about an old program that I'd be watching for what would be at least the fiftieth, but which I haven't looked at in quite some time - and what better program to watch than one of the seminal comedies of its generation, one which had a profound impact on American television, and which went on to inspire such varied fare as Dusty's Trail, Far Out Space Nuts, and Lost.

Gilligan's Island is one of the first television programs I ever remember watching - Having been born in 1963, I was a touch too young to watch it in first-run, but I must've caught it in its earliest re-runs - I'm pretty sure that "Happy Birthday to You" and "The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle" are among the first songs that I knew all the words to.

I debated putting a spoiler warning on this thread - it's hard for me to conceive that there's anyone out there who hasn't seen Gilligan's Island - certainly not in the U.S. Anyway, if by some chance you haven't seen the show, but might want to watch it someday - be forewarned! There will be discussions of plot points, here.

As for the rest of you, "Just sit right back..."

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Yeah, it was funny listening to that, because I was debating with myself whether that was Well's voice or not. Ginger Grant was meant to be an accomplished singer (As Tina Louise was, by all accounts), and you wouldn't expect Mrs. Howell to be a great singer, but Mary-Ann had to sound reasonably good for the Honeybees to be credible as a group that would make the Mosquitoes feel threatened.
I just viewed a clip of the Honeybees' number over on YouTube, and a few more random thoughts occurred to me after seeing it . . . .

1. It's interesting how for that bit, the record used to provide the music was played on a portable stereo player (and, ye gods, do I feel old because I recall using one of those like it was yesterday), instead of that primitively fashioned turntable that the castaways usually employed to play a record. I wonder where they plugged it in?

2. I know that Natalie Schafer was staying in character as Mrs. Howell during her performance as a Honeybee, but even so, I'm surprised that her choreography was as jerky and out-of-sync with Ginger and Mary Ann as it was. Her singing, such as it was, was fine (as far as staying in character), but I would have thought, for the sake of the bit, her movements would have been a bit tighter with the others.

3. Instantly following Mrs. Howell's solo, there is a quick cutaway to the male castaways watching their performance. There's nothing especially remarkable about it; they all stay in character. Yet, even so, for some reason, to me, the chemistry among the actors seems especially vivid and evident. These are people who like each other and enjoy working together, which makes their interaction as characters warm and human and believeable.* That's what made Gilligan's Island so watchable.


* Well, except for maybe Tina Louise, whom, if the show had gone into a fourth season, Sherwood Schwartz had a plan for removing her character from the cast. But even Miss Louise's discontent wasn't so apparent that it stood out dramatically from the group chemistry.
"I wonder where they plugged it in?"

The same place the Mosquitoes were plugging in their electric guitars?
" Well, except for maybe Tina Louise, whom, if the show had gone into a fourth season, Sherwood Schwartz had a plan for removing her character from the cast."

Really? Interesting. I'd never heard that. I can conceive of ways it could've been done - some contrivance where Ginger alone was rescued but then got conked on the head à la Denny Miller's character back in the first season - but I'd never heard that Schwartz was actively considering it.
I'd never heard that, either, but Tina Louise wasn't the only recalcitrant actor Sherwood Schwartz dealt with in his career. He frequently butted heads with Robert Reed over The Brady Bunch and how silly it was. Reed even refused to appear in the series finale, expecting that Schwartz would change the script to his liking as it dealt with Greg's graduation from high school, and Reed figured they couldn't do such a story without Mike Brady. Reed figured wrong; Schwartz called his bluff and did the episode without him.
Interesting. Didn't know that, either.
In his book Inside Gilligan's Island (second ed., St. Martin's Press, 1994), Sherwood Schwartz related how the rift between Tina Louise and the show had grown so deep that he expected Miss Louise to ask to be released from her contract, should the show be picked up for a fourth season. Schwartz would've agreed to the release and he planned for the absence of Ginger Grant to be explained in the first episode of season four thusly:

Ginger is swimming in the ocean . . . [she] swims too far out and begins floundering but is saved by an old wooden lifeboat that drifts toward her. The others notice she's missing and go into the jungle to find her . . . . Two days later, the castaways grow tired and return from the jungle to the community table. The radio is on, and an announcer says, "We interrupt this program to bring you startling news. The famous screen star Ginger Grant, who was thought lost at sea, was rescued by a fishing trawler." Ginger is interviewed. She says she's happy and briefly mentions that all the Minnow passengers are alive and stranded on some island. Back on the island, Mary Ann asks, "I wonder why everyone can get to this island, but in all these years only one of us could get rescued?"

Obviously, Schwartz hadn't fully developed the idea. While we might buy, just barely, that all the other visitors to the island---Eva Grubb, Erika TIffany Smith, Wrongway Feldman, Duke Williams, Harold Hecuba, Lord Beasley, Jonathan Kincaid, et al.---wouldn't or couldn't help the authorities find and rescue the castaways, it is unthinkable that Ginger wouldn't do everything she could to bring her friends home.

Even without knowing the lat-long coördinates of the island, Ginger has the necessary information to bring rescue. For example, in the third-season episode "Splashdown", the castaways attempted to signal a manned NASA spacecraft orbiting overhead by lighting alcohol-soaked logs arranged to spell out "SOS". Through Gilligan's antics, the logs are accidentally moved about to spell out "SOL", which happens to be the first name of one of the astronauts. They take it as a greeting, rather than a distress call. All Ginger would have to do is relay that information to the authorities, and NASA could take the recorded telemetry data from that flight to pinpoint the craft's location when the men on board spotted "SOL". That's only one way; there are others.

So, certainly, there must have been details to Schwartz's plan to remove Ginger from the island that he just hadn't thought out, yet.
A bureaucrat would decide that the true flight path had to be kept secret, for national security reasons, and alter the coordinates. The revised coordinates would coincide with the former location of a volcanic island recently destroyed by an eruption. The would-be rescuers would conclude that the castaways had all been killed.
Or Ginger approaches the producers of the Take-a-Dare radio programme who, purposefully, stranded contestant George Barkley on the same island as the castaways. They would have the lat-long of the island and would be more than happy to enjoy the positive publicity of being the critical factor in rescuing the castaways. And would certainly wish to avoid the negative publicity of refusing to help.
Mine Hero:

While fishing, Gilligan lands a World War II mine, which then activates. As the Professor is concerned that an explosion might trigger off volcanic gases beneath the island, the castaways work to disarm it.

Back Story: Ginger was once voted "Miss Hourglass".
Mary-Ann was once given a gold "slave bracelet" by an old boy friend in high school.

Taking It Seriously: I know next to nothing about the way those old mines worked, so I can't say how plausible the depiction of the mine was. The science of using the radio to interfere with the mine's magnetic properties seems a bit questionable to me.

Gilligan Spoils A Rescue: No. In fact, Gilligan takes it upon himself to tow the mine out into the lagoon, where it explodes relatively harmlessly.
Erika Tiffany Smith to the Rescue:

The wealthy Erika Tiffany-Smith (played by Zsa Zsa Gabor) lands on the island, looking for a place to build a resort hotel. At the same time, she falls for the Professor.

An interesting episode, with some amusing "catty" dialogue between Erika and Mrs. Howell. Faced with romance, the Professor is very Spock-like, here.

Back Story: Erika's full name is Lady Erika Tiffany, the Countess of Capri, the Baroness of Blenford, and the Duchess of Devonshire and Smith. She is an old nemesis of Mrs. Howell.
Ginger's next door neighbors in Hollywood were a couple named Stanley and Marsha.

Taking It Seriously: Mr. Howell takes it upon himself to negotiate the sale of the island, on behalf of his fellow castaways. I have to wonder what the ruling on the ownership would be of an uninhabited island like that, assuming it fell outside the territorial waters of any nation.

Gilligan Spoils A Rescue: No. The culprit here is Erika. She makes it back to civilization, but the authorities are unable to decode her logbook, written in English re-translated from Hungarian. One would imagine that one of the sailors on her yacht would be able to find the island, but one does get the impression that they are chosen more for their "aesthetic" qualities than for their seamanship. This is perhaps implied When Erika met the Skipper and remarked on meeting a "real sailor", at last.
I wonder, by series' end, how many guest-stars made it back to civilization while the castaways remained marooned...?

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